Marriott Groundbreaking: From Suburban Campus to Urban Headquarters

Marriott HQ Groundbreaking: From Suburban Campus to Urban Headquarters

As part of the planning team for Marriott International’s new World Headquarters, we attended the recent groundbreaking in downtown Bethesda, Maryland – it’s the kind of event that makes you realize you are part of a bigger story.  The groundbreaking commemorated another achievement in a long line of successes that have made Marriott a well-respected business and a household name not just in the Washington, DC region but across the globe.

For a company and site that required sophisticated traffic and site circulation studies and traffic engineering and design services, it’s amazing to think that things started off much more humbly nearly 100 years ago …

In the spirit of the American Dream, Marriott started as a small A&W Root Beer stand in the 1920s. Those simple beginnings led to Hot Shoppes restaurants, in-flight catering, and finally the booming hospitality business starting in the late 1950s. The old photos of the original A&W stand make us think about what kind of traffic circulation plan they would have needed (or not) back then!

Marriott's original A&Q root beer stand 1927
Marriott International started as a small A&W Root Beer stand in the 1920s.

From a transportation point of view, Marriott’s new headquarters will be multi-modal – not car-centric. Designed by Gensler, it will be built through a joint venture of the Bernstein Companies and Boston Properties and include a 21-story office building (785,000 S.F.) and a flagship hotel with 8,000 S.F. of meeting space.  It’s expected to be ready in 2022.  We prepared the traffic study, site circulation studies, parking analyses, and continue to provide ongoing engineering and design services as part of the development team.

Marriott could have gone anywhere they wanted, but the move from its current suburban headquarters to only two blocks from the Bethesda Metrorail station represents a fundamental shift in the traditional corporate mindset.  Marriott intends to become part of the urban fabric of Bethesda, just north of Washington, DC, in the center of a multi-modal neighborhood that will draw and retain top talent and be sustainable for many years to come.

It seems a long way from that original root beer stand, but considering the long history of Marriott, it wasn’t surprising that they have chosen to continue to innovate in this way. The new HQ will be a testament to Marriott’s forward-thinking values.